|H O M E||P A I N T I N G||W O R K S on P A P E R||P R E S S||B I O||C O N T A C T|
Your current show, Early and Late Style, reaffirms that, for admirers like myself, the experience of your work is a journey whose point of entry is Matisse, especially,"Bathers By A River." The point of exit is a kind of spiritual sanctuary from the limits of time, gravity and perspective. All of a sudden, we are on the other side of things, and the music of silence reaches upward into opera.
It was marvelous to see in one place so many works, early and late, sharing such signature elements of your work as the inventiveness of composition, the isolation of forceful and timeless images, the inspired use of panels, the pioneering employment of perspective, and the virtuosic use of color. My way of appreciating them derived partly from spending much time looking at,"Bathers By A River." I do not know if Matisse counts as an influence in your work, but for me his art provides an essential a priori education in understanding what you are doing.
Yet there are levels to your work of overarching importance quite remote from what Matisse can teach. I think what I love most about your work is the way that it enacts the mysterious power of music inherent in what Virgina Woolf called,"moments of being," those extraordinary episodes in daily experience when we are most alive. The ambience of such experiences is often suffused with the presence of music, no matter whether it is actually heard. Some of the most intense experiences with music in my life have derived from events charged by a sense of melodies yet to come. The music is felt, even understood, though present only by implication. I hear that music all the way through your work—the whole of it.
When Valerie and I attended the opening night of your show, I was overwhelmed by the way many of the paintings evoked a sense of recall of distinct musical passages—even though, of course, I have never actually heard such music. A measure of context is supplied by what was once termed, "eye music" you know, passages of early 20th century German music so complex it was necessary to look at the score to appreciate them. The music enacted by your painting is passionate and stark and profoundly memorable. It speaks of opera, not the academy. Yet eye music provides a touch stone of clarifying how the mind responds to the intriguing layers of meaning in your art.
Let me add that I can look at such paintings of yours over and over and never get tired, recalling yet another musical property of your work; that your terrific images easily sustain repeated viewings in much the same way that brilliant music sustains repeated listenings.
I recall conversations in which you observed that some of your paintings have two panels, but in fact there is a third. It is one which exists in the mind of the viewer and it properties are suggested, though not defined, by the two which are visible. I think sometimes that third panel is a musical score. Of course, sometimes it is a kind of painted music further modulated from ordinary experience by your addition of visual elements which call into question accepted notions of perspective. The result is art which enacts a sense of eternity somewhere beyond both time as it is experienced and time as it is remembered. It is a powerful timelessness augmented by your decision to depict in your work only images those objects of enduring value to the entire human community. So often when taking in one of your paintings, delighting in the flying columns of mottled birch trees, I get a sense of depth and dimensionality which floats well beyond traditional notions of point of view, to be sure and of memory and gravity as well. I am in a kind of serene afterlife, and I am so grateful for the art which has taken me there."
Dan Ursini, Writer, Playwright, Composer
"Vera Klement is an octogenarian kid, with the knowledge, wisdom and talent of her years and the energy, output and enthusiasm of someone a quarter of her age. She is a remarkably gifted painter whose work continues to grow -- as is apparent in her show opening tonight at Zolla/Lieberman. Her sectioned paintings are like symphonies of self-contained movements that contribute to a larger whole. The poignant beauty of her work references literature, history and us."
Paul Klein, Art advocate, The Huffington Post
The Power of Art, The Huffington Post, May 11, 2012
"Vera Klement’s art matters because life matters… Artists such as Vera Klement ask in their art what perhaps more of us should ask in our lives – why are we here, what does my place in the world mean, what are these things that I feel, what is my relationship to nature, what is this rapture and despair, how can I make sense of history and culture, how is my journey through life both unique and part of some larger process?"
"....it is the dignity of her search that we celebrate in an exhibition such as this, the bursts of self-knowledge and truth embedded in these images, the hard-won moments of revelation they offer us, their gift of letting us touch another human mind…"
James Yood, Visiting Professor of Art History, Theory & Criticism and Director, New Arts Journalism Program, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Contemporary Art Critic, Artforum magazine, catalog essay, Paint into Icon: Vera Klement Paintings from 1994 - 2008
Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL Oct 17, 2008 – Jan 4, 2009
"…Klement recognizes the mediumistic role of the artist through which art passes into existence. She also senses that this occurs when circumstances are right, and she recognizes that she "sets the stage" for it to happen in her multiple image works, by following thought's dictation in the primary image; by ignoring those anxieties which devil one to "solve" a work rationally, but forces herself to wait for a secondary image – within her specific requirements – to present itself…
…Where earlier works were about unity within diversity of related parts, the new works are more risky, and seem closer to the hallucinatory poetry of a Magritte, an Arthur Rimbaud, or a Lautréamont…"
Gerald Nordland, author, former director of the Milwaukee Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art among others: Vera Klement, The Recent Paintings, catalog essay, 2001
"…as ever, Klement proceeds from the premise that one image added to another does not give just two but a distinct third entity that is less seen than felt…"
"…the 2006 painting (The Stones of Camargo) also has the most components of any in recent memory. Klement juggles no fewer than 13 images, which include representations of heads, leaves and feet in addition to abstract passages, one evoking a Barnett Newman "zip." All are held in balance as associations multiply and reverberate. It is a thrilling performance."
Alan Artner, art review, The Chicago Tribune, January 12, 2007
"…This must be what it is like to be a painterly painter. This is what it must be like to be Vera Klement. Swinging back and forth between color, pattern, texture, contrast and the construction of an image, the return to color and pattern, being seduced by the viscous pigments and the textures they can create, the furrows, the hills and valleys, the sweeping washes, and returning to the creation of an image, a story, a state where emotions hang suspended, captured in line and color and texture and shapes…"
Lynne Warren, Curator, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, catalog essay "Unnamable, The Paintings of Vera Klement" for the exhibition, Vera Klement, Paintings 1991 – 2004, at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Sedalia, Missouri, 2004/05
"…the absolute centrality of her images, her profound engagement with her materials, and the inseparable connection between paint and the most crucial aspect of Being constitute her signature. In the best tradition of Western painting, and with all the gusto of the last half of the twentieth century, Vera Klement truly revels in paint and its processes, giving us undeniably powerful visions to hold onto."
Gregory G. Knight, Chief curator and head of the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Chicago Cultural Center. Curatorial catalog essay Painter par Excellence : Vera Klement paintings 1965 – 1998, a retrospective at the Chicago Cultural Center, 1999
"…Subject matter and style converge with a rare poignancy and resonance in Vera Klement’s poem-paintings, as I call her pictures."
"…Klement gives us, in singular imaginative moments, sensations of falling, loss, death: radical bleakness – from which we are rescued by radiant color. Its presence transforms the canvas, filling its emptiness with grace: unexpectedly, the desert light of the canvas becomes gnostic, suggesting that salvation can be created out of – come out of – nothing…"
"…Rooted in historical awareness of human misery, Klement’s poem-paintings rise to the mystical heights of moral and existential myth, like prayers."
Donald Kuspit, author, critic, art historian, Professor, State University of New York, Stony Brook, from the catalog essay Vera Klement’s Poem-Paintings, 1997
"In love with the palpable materiality of objects, Vera Klement celebrates their "thingness" in lush paintings that are also richly metaphorical, elegiac yet joyous. In all her work, we are struck by the impressive substance of paint thickly and expertly applied as well as by the emphatically sculptural presence of the things paint describes…"
"…The felt identification with nature understood by German Romantic painters as Identitätsphilosophie has special poignancy for this artist whose exile from her original homeland continues to inform her worldview…"
Sue Taylor, author, critic, contributing editor of Art in America, Professor of Art History, Portland State University, Oregon, catalog essay "Vera Klement: Things Made Mythic" for Vera Klement, Paintings 1965 - 1998 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 1999
"Klement thematizes a central paradox for her work and the entire enterprise of contemporary painting – the impossibility of depiction…"
"Klement’s vision, now mature and exquisite in its artistic control, can afford to present unfinished narratives; she depicts disparate components from land and sea and celebrates situations where everything is out of its element."
"…The grand trees are steadfast sentinels, signs of endurance and witnesses to the joy of these visible coincidences that appear like allegories of subjectivity from the artist’s generous imagination."
Judith Russi Kirshner, Critic, curator and Dean of the College of Architecture and the Arts at the University of Illinois, Chicago, catalog essay, Brody’s Gallery, Washington D.C. 1992
"…Throughout her artistic life Klement has remembered. She has looked back, ransacked her past, searched and unconsciously retrieved, in order to embody a present. Or a presence…"
"…It is rare to find a painter who has followed so affectionately, so cogently an inherent feeling for continuity; who can take a tradition (the near tradition of the Abstract Expressionists) and work out of it into fresh territory. Klement has developed a clear voice full of resonances…"
Dore Ashton, author, critic, art historian, Professor, the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, New York, NY, catalog essay "Vera Klement: A Retrospective 1953 – 1986" The Renaissance Society, The University of Chicago, 1987, and art review, "Two part Connection: Vera Klement’s Painting" Arts Magazine, March 1984